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From the annual reports (campus)

Nine campus chapters in Region 2 submitted regional reports this year. Here are some highlights from those reports. Thanks to all for their great work in keeping SPJ and journalism strong.

Elon University

• The chapter did very good work (This is my editorializing here, but it’s true…) in hosting an excellent regional conference this year. There were many strong, interesting sessions, as well as a terrific silent auction, which hadn’t been held at a regional conference in several years.

George Mason University

• A lengthy list of programs for the years includes speakers from The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, Politico, Google and several other organizations.

• Two chapter members helped plan an Oxford Style debate by the university’s chapter of the Roosevelt Institute, a student-run think tank.

• The chapter worked on a U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program in which nine Chinese journalists talked about journalism in the United States.

High Point University

• The chapter held a First Amendment Free Food Festival, with a “dictator” dealing with “fake news.”

• Showed “Spotlight,” followed by a discussion.

James Madison University

• Hosted an event with Chris Hurst, a former TV news anchor whose girlfriend and colleague, Alison Parker, was shot and killed while she was on the air. Parker was a JMU alum.

• Hosted five staff members from the local newspaper to talk about their professional experiences, including ethical dilemmas.

• Screened “The Paper,” a documentary about a student newspaper at Penn State University, followed by a discussion of diversity in the workplace, particularly in publishing

University of Maryland

• The biggest program of the year was a panel discussion called “Post-Election Media Landscape,” held in D.C. so other pro and campus SPJ chapters and other journalists could participate. It was streamed live on Facebook.

• The chapter worked with other student organizations on campus on programs, including debate watch parties with the College Democrats and College Republicans. Another, with Terps for Israel, was a program with the first Israeli Arab news presented on Hebrew-language Israeli TV.

• Screened “Tickling Giants,” a film about a journalist commonly known as the Egyptian Jon Stewart for his satire show.

Virginia Commonwealth University

• Also screened “Tickling Giants”

• Co-sponsored a lecture by retired CBS News correspondent Wyatt Andrews on the friction between President Donald Trump and the media

• Held a discussion during Native American Indian Heritage Month about the Dakota Access Pipeline and the importance of Native Americans in journalism

Washington & Lee University

• Hosted Victoria Reitano, who spoke about “You, Inc. Using Google to be Your Own Boss.”

• The most well attended event was a session on getting jobs after graduation, with tips on presenting yourself and preparing for interviews.

• The chapter supported two ethics institutes hosted by the journalism department. The speakers were NPR executive Keith Woods and Jill Geisler, the Bill Plante Chair in Leadership and Media Integrity at Loyola University Chicago.

Western Carolina University

• The top program was a “One Night Stand,” in which journalism and English students created a zine, without the help of any technology.

• Two chapter officers held workshops on using social media professionally and how to cover hot-button issues.

• Held a social event with the campus chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America.

Salisbury University

• Organized a program with David Burns, an associate professor, on overseas and international journalism.

• Held a First Amendment Free Food Festival. Students had to sign in to get pizza on the top floor of the new library, agreeing to give up their First Amendment rights.

• Worked with student media organizations to hold the school’s first media awards ceremony

Statements, honors, conventions: What the board did, and discussed

ICYMI, as the acronymists like to say…

Here is a recap of the April 18 national SPJ board meeting in Indianapolis. Not everyone has the time or patience to watch an hours-long meeting by livestream, but several of these topics will interest SPJ members.

Everything we discussed and voted on is part of a board packet with greater details on most topics.

1 – SPJ President Dana Neuts gave a report (p. 2 in the packet) on some of the things that have happened during her time in office or that are in the works. It’s worth a read. For example: the number of public statements SPJ has issued since improving its communications process, the number of communities (like chapters, but related to common interests) SPJ now has, translations of the new SPJ Code of Ethics into other languages and specific efforts to focus on diversity.

2 – An update on what SPJ is doing to improve its technology. It’s spelled out in a memo from the fall (p. 17) and an update memo from April (p. 58).

3 – SPJ is doing pretty well financially (an explanation by Executive Director Joe Skeel, with specifics, is on p. 21). The board unanimously approved a $1.18 million spending plan for fiscal year 2016 — up 9.7 percent from the current year. Revenue is expected to be $1.21 million, up 2 percent from the current year.

4 – Four new chapters were chartered (p. 36): American University in Bulgaria, University of Massachusetts, Nova Southeastern and California State Polytechnic University. That’s right – there is now an SPJ chapter in Bulgaria.  It joins two other SPJ international chapters — one in Qatar and one in the United Arab Emirates. There is also one virtual chapter – at Ashford University.

5 – The ballot is filling up for SPJ national offices. As it stands now, there will be a contested election for secretary-treasurer (p. 37), which is usually a stepping stone toward becoming president. [I plan to run again for Region 2 director. Anyone else who would like to run for this or any other office should email Sonny Albarado at salbarado@spj.org.]

6 – If you’re interested in a brief status report from the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation board: p. 38.

7 – For a status report from SPJ staff at headquarters: p. 40. Some highlights: SPJ is hiring new employees as we are hired to help run other journalism organizations (p. 42); SPJ has developed a good relationship with Google for training activities (p. 45); there will be more training to help delegates understand what happens at the national convention (p. 50).

8 – Why is SPJ’s national convention almost always in September? Executive Director Joe Skeel has laid out the various factors (p. 51). It’s hard to balance the competing interests, such as school calendars and the season for the best hotel rates. Skeel noted that certain cities fill the criteria we want (appeal, food options, geography, meeting space, airport proximity) much better than others. The board agreed to have HQ staff investigate options with higher room rates (i.e., $225 instead of $175). That might add places such as New York City back into the mix, adding benefits that could outweigh costs. Stay tuned.

9 – The staff looked into the idea of extending the postgraduate discount membership rate ($37.50 instead of $75 a year) from three years to four years (p. 54). There was no strong feeling either way, so the board left it alone.

10 – Speaking of communications… When should SPJ speak (p. 59)? Should we issue statements about the deaths of journalists? If they’re prominent? If they’re killed while working? Should we comment on acts of terrorism involving journalists or newsrooms? This was a lengthy, lively debate, but there were no clear answers. My suggestion was for us to start with one question: When can we make a difference? At other times, we can be part of the discussion through social media, which might serve the same purpose.

11 – And speaking of statements… SPJ’s First Amendment advocacy usually is limited to matters of a free press and sometimes free speech. But we ended up weighing in on a freedom of religion issue, with a statement, when Indiana passed its Religious Freedom Restoration Act. In this case, SPJ spoke as an Indiana entity and employer, stating our opposition to discrimination. (Read President Dana Neuts’ very transparent blog post about the internal SPJ debate and dissent.) This sparked more board discussion about when we should speak, and, in particular, how we should handle a comparable situation that might lie ahead. Louisiana has its own Religious Freedom Restoration Act in the works. This could become an SPJ matter again because our 2016 national convention will be in New Orleans. Also, the national board might meet there in the spring before the convention. Moving the convention could put SPJ out hundreds of thousands of dollars, which would hurt the organization greatly. But we are thinking of moving the board meeting, and telling leaders in Louisiana what we would do and why. Again, stay tuned.

12 – 41 percent of SPJ members have no representation in votes taken at the national convention. That’s because they don’t belong to chapters, which send delegates to vote on matters such as the SPJ Code of Ethics update last year or bylaws changes, or the occasional other weighty topic, such as whether to stop giving a Helen Thomas Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2012, the system changed to allow all SPJ members to vote on elections for national officers, but the system has not changed on business items – which are difficult to put out to vote in advance, since they are often amended on the floor. Anyway, a committee (including me) is going to look at how to address the imbalance (p. 62). Feedback on this thorny issue is welcome.

13 – The national board agreed to add $30,000 into a new advocacy (“Legal Offense”) fund (p. 69).

14 – As mentioned above, a new policy says that convention delegates will get more training. It also sets guidelines for transparency in convention business and election. For example, vote totals must be given after a vote, which didn’t always happen (p. 75).

15 – Another contentious topic was whether to change the procedure for selecting the Wells Memorial Key, SPJ’s highest honor. A committee recommended giving the full 23-member national board the final say, but past winners and some other opponents objected. A compromise is that it will become a function of the Executive Committee (with seven members), rather than just the officers (five people). Also, the full board will get the list of nominees to review each year, as well as a running list of 10 years’ worth of nominations. Part of the debate was about how to broaden the pool of nominations and honor diversity. The full board will decide the winners of other SPJ awards. (p. 76)

That’s not a full account of the meeting, but it’s pretty close. Also check out President Neuts’ more timely and concise recap.

 

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